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Heading to the edge of the world

2020-08-10T13:34:40.324Z

The only researcher in Spain aboard the largest scientific expedition to the Arctic in history, the MOSAIC project, recounts the experience of being stranded for a month and a half in the Arctic heart to study the climate of the North Pole



I am traveling on board the scientific ship Akademik Tryoshnikov , which left the German port of Bremerhaven on August 3, heading northeast towards one of the most remote areas on the planet and the most difficult to access: the heart of the Arctic. I am part of a group of about 40 scientists and 36 crew members who are going to give the last relief to the MOSAIC mission, the largest scientific expedition in history to the Arctic.

We have been going up the rugged Norwegian coast for days, through the temperamental North Sea, and we are having good seas. A bit of calm is appreciated after a few months in which the coronavirus has forced us to change travel plans and has subjected us to a strict two-week quarantine before boarding. (It wasn't a question of exposing yourself to an outbreak in the middle of the Arctic.) But when I joined the mission, no one said it was going to be easy.

The Akademik Tryoshnikov has taken us little by little to the heart of the Arctic ice, where we plan to arrive on August 10. There, trapped on the ice pack and drifting, the modern scientific icebreaker Polarstern awaits us , the protagonist of the MOSAIC mission, an international consortium led by the Alfred Wegener Institut, from Germany, and which brings together a total of 600 researchers from 19 countries, with a total budget of 140 million euros.

The Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) is the only Spanish institution that participates in MOSAIC. He has two research projects from the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC): one that will study the mass and thickness of ice via satellite and another, the one that I lead, that will investigate the relationship between marine biological matter and the formation of clouds. These projects will also provide information to the Polar CSIC Interdisciplinary Thematic Platform: Polar Zones Observatory, which the organization has launched to study the Arctic and Antarctica.

The Polarstern has advanced embedded in the pack since last autumn and will continue until next October. This will complete an epic year-long journey collecting all kinds of measurements on the unique Arctic climate system. The set of information collected will allow better forecasting of global climate change, since extreme warming in the Arctic greatly affects the climate in lower latitudes, such as where Spain is located. I believe that, by ambition and by mobilized resources, MOSAIC is the scientific expedition of the century.

The Polarstern is the base of operations for the entire mission. Around it a network of observation posts is deployed placed in the ice in an area of ​​about 40 kilometers. Both the icebreaker and this network advance with the natural drift of the ice pack through the polar cap and towards the Atlantic. It is supported by other icebreakers and helicopters. Dozens of scientists have been rotating in the Polarstern and I am part of the fifth and final relay.

These summer months are a key time to study ice and cloud formation, since the melting has already begun and produces pools on the surface of the sea ice that alter its energy situation. When the ice finally breaks up, the resulting ducts and channels release water vapor and aerosols, leading to the formation of clouds in the atmosphere.

And that's where I come in. My research aboard the Polarstern consists of taking atmospheric measurements and studying the impact of marine life on cloud formation. Clouds are key to regulating the planet's temperature. Without clouds we would have a much warmer Earth. But we still don't quite understand how they form and come apart, and that is limiting us a lot in the projections of climate and climate change. My goal is to determine what synergy is established between matter of biological origin and clouds, what type of plankton most favors the formation of clouds.

While I review the work that I will do at the Polarstern , I compensate for the lack of internet with the reading of the book Una specie di paradiso , by Franco Giliberto and Giuliano Piova, which tells the story of Antonio Pigafetta (my countryman from Vicenza, near Venice), the writer who accompanied the Portuguese explorer Magellan in what would be the first circumnavigation of the globe, in the service of Carlos V of Spain. Our trip to the North Pole is also being historic, because of the number of researchers involved and because of the information we are getting about the crucial Arctic climate. I will be traveling aboard the Polarstern for a month and a half, a considerable physical and scientific challenge that I will report on this blog every week (weather permitting!).

Manuel Dall'Osto is a CSIC researcher at the Barcelona Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC). The Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) is the only Spanish institution that participates in MOSAIC. It has two research projects from the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC): one that will study the mass and thickness of ice via satellite and another, led by Manuel Dall'Osto, which will investigate the relationship between marine biological matter and cloud formation.

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Source: elparis

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